Columbus Makes Art Presents Composer Lauren Spavelko
Lauren Spavelko is a composer, studio teacher, performer and visual artist. Lauren composes and performs with many Greater Columbus organizations, including the Central Ohio Symphony, Opera Columbus, Hixon Dance and New Music at the Short North Stage. She also serves on the board of the Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society (COHJS) and Converging Arts Columbus (CAC).
Bruce: Why do you compose?
Lauren: I am endlessly fascinated by people and storytelling. I’m that person who can talk to almost anyone. Leave me alone for ten minutes, and by the time you return, I will have made a friend. My desire to connect inspires some of my most powerful, memorable works, and my music reflects how I engage with the rest of the world. I am here to meet you. To hold up a mirror and show you something you’ve never seen that way before. To receive and channel your stories so that others can hear them in the way I do. To make you feel seen and remind you that you are not alone. And to remind you that life is to be enjoyed as much as survived.
Bruce: What do you feel is your most important work?
Lauren: I think my most important work is Baby Book, a song cycle on miscarriage, pregnancy and motherhood. It’s a work I conceived as “by women, for women and about women.” I wrote the music based on poems Chloe Yelena Miller’s autobiographical memoir Viable. I think its success has much to do with the deeply personal subject matter and our collective need to share and support women through these experiences. Chloe and I created a sensitive, evocative work that often elicits strong emotional responses in our listeners. I’m continually surprised and inspired by the performances and projects these songs have been part of across the country and in Italy and Singapore.
Bruce: What do you feel is your most unusual work?
Lauren: Probably Balloon Interludes! This piece is a silly, fun vocal improvisation with balloons that I created in Los Angeles with the NEO Voice Festival. The room ends up absolutely filled with balloons and crazy sounds. The musical “score” looks more like a children’s book or a script, and the performance is a combination of music, theater and joke. Personally, I would love to see this done by middle schoolers—I think they’d be even better at it than the adults!
Bruce: How did you get involved with the Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society?
Lauren: I’m a swing dancer! I’ve been a social dancer since 2014. It was my favorite activity while studying music composition at the University of Louisville, and I joined Swing Columbus when I returned. We love dancing to live music at the COHJS monthly jam sessions, and we have quite a few professional and avocational musicians among the swing dancers, too. I love that hot jazz is so social and anyone can jump in! As a classically-trained musician, I’ve most enjoyed exploring jazz fiddle, improvising and learning standards. My favorites to play are “Five Foot Two” and “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön,” and my favorite to sing is “St. James Infirmary.” I’ve loved leading our free “Intro to Hot Jazz Jams” with Whirlybirds bandleader Joe Brenneman, too—we are both experienced music teachers and performers who are excited to invite more players into the style.
Bruce: What do you love about the Columbus arts scene?
Lauren: Columbus is cool, and I’m always proud to brag about the arts in my hometown when I travel! I love the diversity and collaboration among our arts organizations and how we invest in our local artists. As a young classical musician, I had the mistaken impression that classical concert music wasn’t being created anymore, but it is very much a living, breathing art form. We have some incredible composers living right here in the city! We also have some performers, directors and patrons who prioritize featuring our local talent and creating exciting new concerts and productions. I also love how I can enjoy so many styles of music around the city. There’s truly something for everyone!
Bruce: Where can we hear your music performed in Columbus soon?
Lauren: I’ve been involved in several collaborations during the pandemic, and I’m looking forward to sharing pieces for voice, violin, orchestra and mixed chamber ensemble this season. Many of these shows include music by other local composers, too. Some are larger productions with visual art and dance. These include A Harrowing World, presented by Hixon Dance, March 25-27, 2022; An Afternoon with Converging Arts Columbus in March, 2022; Astronomer Dreaming, presented by Converging Arts Columbus on May 6, 2022; and Score for Four, presented by the Johnstone Fund for New Music next spring.
To learn more about Lauren, visit www.LaurenSpavelko.com. For more information the Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society, go to www.cohjs.org. Catch the Central Ohio Hot Jazz Jam & Dance the second Wednesdays of every month at The Rambling House.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Learn more about local artists, organizations, public art and events at ColumbusMakesArt.com.